Thursday, March 30, 2017

Seared Sea Scallop and Peperoni Bagna Cauda Stuffed Portobello with Scallion Threads

     A Rich Tasting Antipasti!
     The word "Antipasti" basically refers to an appetizer that is served before pasta during a traditional Italian four course dining event.  Antipasti items are also popular light lunch items, especially at cafés that promote a business lunch for office workers that have limited break time.      
     When large Portobello Mushrooms first hit the American fine dining restaurant scene back in the early 1990's, it seemed like every chef offered a Stuffed Portobello or a Chargrilled Portobello as a special du jour.  Some Portobello presentations were more refined than others back in those days, but for the most part, creating an appealing flavor combination was most important.  Traditional Italian food items paired with Portobello seemed to sell best back in those days.
     Removing the stem and gills is necessary for any large Portobello Mushroom presentation.  For a refined presentation, the Portobello should be peeled.  For a casual café style presentation, the brown Portobello skin can be left intact, because the color brown classically suggests rich flavor.
     Gratin style Portobello stuffings were common back in the 1990's, but this style of stuffed Portobello was a bit too heavy to be served as an appetizer.  In Florida, seafood stuffed Portobello were popular, especially if the stuffing was made with crab or shrimp, but more often than not, the seafood stuffing was bound with a cream sauce, so it was a bit heavy on the tummy too.
     Emulsion sauces like Beurre Blanc yielded a lighter stuffed Portobello, but when the French health cuisine trend first began in the late 1990's, butter sauces became less popular.  Health minded customers preferred olive oil or grape seed oil back in those days, so Aioli Sauces soon took the place of butter sauces and cream sauces for appetizer items.
     Italian Bagna Cauda is a classic Italian appetizer that has an emulsified olive oil garlic sauce that can be made a few different ways.  Reducing cream with olive oil, anchovies and garlic, then pureeing the mixture is one way that Bagna Cauda can be made.  This style of Bagna Cauda tastes rich, yet because it contains a high proportion of olive oil it still appeals to health conscious guests.  The light anchovy flavor of Bagna Cauda also fits in with recent umami flavor trends.  A roasted large Portobello stuffed with Roasted Red Pepper Bagna Cauda (Peperoni Bagna Cauda) and a large sea scallop proverbially covers all of the bases!

     Roasted Red Bell Pepper Preparation (Peperoni):
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup. 
     Step 1:  Select 1 medium large red bell pepper.
     There are two ways to roast a red bell pepper for making Peperoni.  Use either of these options:
     • The red bell pepper can be roasted over an open flame till the skin turns black.  
     • The second method involves brushing the red bell peppers with olive oil then roasting them in a 350ºF oven till black highlights appear on the pepper skin.  
     Step 2:  Peel the blackened skin off of the roasted red pepper under cold running water.
     Step 3:  Split the pepper open.
     Remove the pulp and seeds under cold running water.
     Step 4:  Trim the stem off the stem cap.
      Pat the cleaned roasted red bell pepper dry with a pastry towel.
     Step 5:  Cut the roasted red bell pepper lengthwise into 1/4" wide strips.
     Place the peppers in a container.
     Pour a few drops of olive oil over the pepper strips.
     The chill the roasted red bell pepper strips till they are needed.

     This recipe yields 1 crouton medallion.
     Use a 3" steel ring mold to cut a slice of whole grain wheat bread into a medallion shape.
     Place the the bread medallion on a roasting pan.
     Bake the crouton in a 325ºF oven till it is toasted golden brown.
     Set the crouton aside.

     Roasted Scallion Threads:
     This recipe yields 1 or 2 garnish portions.
     Step 1:  Cut 1 or 2 scallions into 3 1/2" to 4" lengths.  (3 or 4 pieces is plenty)
     Cut the scallion pieces into long thin julienne strips.  (1/16" wide strips)
     Step 2:  Place the scallion strips in a small mixing bowl.
     Drizzle a few drops of blended olive oil over the scallion strips.
     Toss the scallion strips and oil together till the strips are coated.
     Step 3:  Spread the scallion strips on a small roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the thin scallion strips are caramelized and crisp.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Set the pan aside, so the delicate Roasted Scallion Threads are not damaged.
     Peperoni Bagna Cauda:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (2 petite portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of good olive oil.
     Add 5 whole garlic cloves that are partially crushed.
     Gently sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of Anchovy Paste.
     Add 2/3 cup of cream.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency.  (Whisk the sauce often, so the cream and oil combines.)
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use an emersion blender (or regular blender) to puree and emulsify the sauce.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of Roasted Red Bell Pepper Strips to the Bagna Cauda Sauce in the sauce pot.
     *Keep the sauce pot warm on a stove top till later in the recipe when the Portobello and Scallop finish cooking.
     Step 5:  When the mushroom and scallop are ready, place the sauce pot of Bagna Cauda Sauce over very low heat.
     Gently warm the Peperoni Bagna Cauda.
     Roasted Portobello:
     This recipe yields 1 large roasted Portobello Mushroom.
     Peeling the mushroom is an option.
     *The Portobello and Sea Scallop should be cooked at the same time.
     Step 1:  Pop the stem off of a large Portobello Mushroom that is about 5" to 6" in diameter.
     Carefully use a spoon to scrape the gills off of the mushroom.
     Step 2:  Lightly brush the mushroom cap with olive oil.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Place the prepared Portobello on a roasting pan, so the scraped gill side is facing up.
     Place the pan in a 325ºFº oven.
     Roast till the Portobello is tender.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the Roasted Portobello warm on a stove top.

     Seared Sea Scallop:
     This recipe yields 1 large Sea Scallop.
     Step 1:  Select 1 large Sea Scallop that weighs 3 to 3 1/2 ounces.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Place the Sea Scallop in the pan.
     Sear the Sea Scallop till it is golden brown on both sides and it is about halfway cooked.  
     Step 3:  Place the sauté pan with the sea scallop in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the Sea Scallop is a medium/medium well finish temperature.
     Keep the seared sea scallop warm on a stove top.

     Seared Sea Scallop and Peperoni Bagna Cauda Stuffed Portobello with Scallion Threads:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion.
     Step 1:  Set the pan with the Roasted Portobello on a countertop.
     Place about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of the Peperoni Bagna Cauda on the Roasted Portobello Mushroom.
     Place the Seared Sea Scallop on the Peperoni Bagna Cauda.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven for 1 minute to reheat the appetizer.
     Step 2:  Place the crouton on the center of a plate.
     Remove the Scallop and Peperoni Bagna Cauda Stuffed Portobello pan from the oven.
     Use a spatula to place the stuffed mushroom on top of the crouton.
     Step 3:  Place 1 small portion of the Roasted Scallion Threads on the scallop.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced Italian Parsley on the plate.
     This is a very nice tasting antipasti!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lapin en Créole Moutarde Crème Velouté a la Vol Au Vent

     Louisiana Creole Mustard Cream Braised Rabbit in Vol Au Vent Pastry!
     There are many traditional European rabbit recipes to choose from and rabbit is often featured in European fine dining cuisine.  In America, rabbit is not mainstream food item, so relatively few fine dining restaurants offer rabbit on the menu.  In American farm country, rabbit is a pest that is cultivated by hunters to keep their numbers in check, so farm country is where the best American rabbit recipes are usually found.  One exception is Louisiana, where the old French culinary heritage holds fine rabbit recipes in high regard.
     Rabbit can prepared like chicken, but rabbit takes much more time to become tender.  With this in mind, rabbit should be limited to braising or slow roasting recipes.  Stewing and braising techniques guarantee that the rabbit will be tender.  Marinating the rabbit in an acidic solution beforehand also helps to tenderize the meat too.  
     Louisiana Creole Mustard is nice choice for flavoring a cream sauce, especially when a strong zesty mustard flavor is desired.  There are many old traditional Louisiana rabbit recipes that require Creole Mustard, so this flavor combination is well proven.  
     Serving a saucy braised item in Vol Au Vent Pastry is a classic food presentation.  Vol Au Vent food presentations were popular from the 1800's through the late 1900's, then with the advent of modern fusion and health cuisines many of the old classic food presentation styles were abandoned.  While working as a sous chef at a French café in the 1980's, I marketed Vol Au Vent entrées on the special du jour board at least once per week.  
     Saucy braised light meat in a Vol Au Vent was a popular lunch entrée back in those days and I have seen relatively few restaurants offer this item during the last decade.  Even so, because of the convenience of frozen puff pastry products in grocery stores, Vol Au Vent entrées are now more popular in private home dining rooms than restaurants.  
     Frozen Par-Baked Voul Au Vent and Frozen Puff Pastry Dough Sheets can be found in most grocery stores.  Serrated stainless steel ring molds are all that is needed to cut puff pastry sheets to make a Vol Au Vent.  A Par-Baked Vol Au Vent product only needs to be heated in an oven till the pastry turns golden brown.  I have never tried one of the Par-Baked Vol Au Vent products before, so I tested this product in today's recipe photo example.  The Par-Baked Vol Au Vent product has a perfect uniform shape, but the texture and flavor is not quite as good as a Vol Au Vent that is made with fresh or frozen puff pastry dough sheets.  Even so, the Par-Baked Vol Au Vent product is a nice convenience for home cooks that have limited time to spend in the kitchen.        
     Vol au Vent Pastry Options:
     • If you prefer to make your own Puff Pastry Dough Sheets from scratch, then follow this link to the recipe in this website:  Pâte Feuilletée (French Puff Pastry Dough) and Blitz Puff Pastry Dough
     • To make Vol Au Vent with a Fresh or Frozen Puff Pastry Dough Sheet product, follow this link to the instructions in a recipe in this website:  Fresh or Frozen Puff Pastry Dough Vol au Vent
     • If you prefer to use a Frozen Par-Baked Vol Au Vent product, then follow the baking instructions on the box!  

     Marinated Rabbit Preparation:
     Whole Rabbit is usually sold as a frozen product at butcher shops. 
     Step 1:  Select 1 whole prepared rabbit that weighs 2 1/2 to 3 pounds.  
     Cut off the hind legs and fore legs and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Use a boning knife to remove the loin straps from inside the rib cage.
     Use a boning knife to remove the back straps that run along the spine.
     Set the strap meat sections aside with the legs.
     *Save the bare rib cage and back bones for making stock or just discard the carcass.
     Step 3:  Place the rabbit legs and strap meat in a container.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Creole Mustard.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns.
     Add 1 sprig of thyme.
     Toss the ingredients together, so the rabbit is coated with marinade.
     Step 4:  Seal the container.
     Marinate the rabbit in a refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.
     Step 5:  Rinse the marinade off of the rabbit pieces.
     Use a pastry towel to pat the meat dry.  
     Set the rabbit pieces aside or chill them for later use. 
     Lapin en Créole Moutarde Crème Velouté :
     This recipe yields 2 entrée portions.  (Enough for 4 petite Vol Au Vent.)
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the reserved marinated rabbit pieces.
     Sauté till the rabbit is almost fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     *The smaller pieces will cook quicker, so remove them from the pan when they are done, then continue cooking the larger pieces.  
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the sautéed rabbit pieces from the pan and place them on a cutting board.
     Let the rabbit pieces cool.
     Remove the rabbit meat from the bones.  (Discard the bones.)
     Cut the rabbit meat into small bite size pieces and set them aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced peeled celery.
     Gently sauté till the shallots turn clear in color.  (Try not to brown the ingredients!)
     Step 4:  Add just enough flour while stirring to soak up the excess butter and make a roux.  (About 2 to 3 teaspoons.)
     Constantly stir till the roux is combined and it turns a golden color.
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Whisk as the sauce heats and thickens.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of Creole Mustard.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.  (to taste)
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, while whisking occasionally.
     *The sauce should be a very thin consistency at this point.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.  
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin sauce consistency that can easily coat the pieces of rabbit meat.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chilled unsalted butter while stirring.
     Keep the Lapin en Créole Moutarde Crème Velouté warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Lapin en Créole Moutarde Crème Velouté a la Vol Au Vent:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place two small Vol Au Vent pastry shells on a plate.  (Or 1 large Vol Au Vent.)
     Spoon the rabbit and some sauce into the vol au vents.
     Spoon the Lapin en Créole Moutarde Crème Velouté into each Vol Au Vente, so it overflows the pastry cup and cascades onto the plate.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle about 1/2 tablespoon of bias sliced green onion over each Vol Au Vent.
     Place a vegetable of your choice on the plate.  (Buttered Snap Peas are a nice choice!)
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This is a nice tasting Louisiana style rabbit entrée!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Prosciutto Canary Melon with Spring Lettuce and Scallion Mint Yogurt

     A Nice Mediterranean Salad for the Spring Season!
     Canary Melon is usually available from mid spring through late summer.  Canary Melon has one of the lightest refreshing melon flavors of them all, so it is perfect for pairing with Parma Prosciutto.
     Prosciutto e Melone is a classic Italian antipasti that can be paired with a petite salad to create an interesting presentation.  Bite size pieces of Prosciutto wrapped Canary Melon add panache to a composed salad design.  Since Canary Melon is so refreshing, garnishing the dressed Spring Lettuce with a generous amount of Canary Melon Balls is a welcome sight on a warm day.
     The Scallion Mint Yogurt Dressing is made with Goat Milk Yogurt, so it has a healthy zesty flavor.  Mint and scallion are familiar spring flavors worldwide and this flavor combination contributes to the theme of this Mediterranean salad platter.
     Scallion Mint Yogurt Salad Dressing: 
     This recipe yields a little more than 1/4 cup.  (1 portion)
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of very thinly sliced green onion tops.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Add a few drops of water at a time while stirring, till the dressing becomes a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  (About 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of water is plenty.)
     Place the Scallion Mint Yogurt Salad Dressing in a small container and chill it till it is needed.
     Canary Melon Balls:  
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Canary Melons vary in size.  A small Canary Melon is enough for 2 guests and a large one is enough for 4 or 5 guests.  
     Step 1:  Cut a canary melon in half lengthwise.
     Use a spoon to gently scrape the seeds and pulp out.
     Step 2:  Set one half of the melon aside for later in the recipe.  This will be used to make the Prosciutto Wrapped Canary Melon Pieces.
     Step 3:  Place the other half of the Canary Melon on a cutting board.
     Use a Melon Ball Tool (7/16" to 1/2" diameter size) to cut 18 whole round Canary Melon Balls.
     Place the canary melon balls in a container and chill them till they are needed.
     *Snack on the fruit that remains in the melon shell!
     Prosciutto Wrapped Canary Melon :  
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (About 12 bite size pieces.)
     Imported Italian certified Parma Prosciutto or certified Italian Volpi Prosciutto is best for this recipe.  These fine Prosciutto Hams can be found in an Italian delicatessen.  A deli clerk will slice the Prosciutto paper thin and separate each slice with parchment paper, so the thin ham sliced do not stick together.
     Be patient when working with thin sliced Prosciutto.  The paper thin sliced Prosciutto will stick to itself and it is nearly impossible to separate the meat without tearing it to shreds.  Handle the Prosciutto with care, so the finished product looks nice.  The less that the Prosciutto Wrapped Canary Melon is handled, the less damage will occur!
     Step 1:  Place the reserved prepared Canary Melon Half on a cutting board.
     Use a knife to cut off the thin rind.
     Step 2:  Cut the melon fruit into long wedges that are about 3/4" wide.  (Cut enough for 12 bite size pieces.)
     Wrap each wedge with a thin coat of paper thin sliced Prosciutto from end to end.
     Step 3:  Cut the long Prosciutto Wrapped Canary Melon Wedges into 12 bite size cube shaped pieces.  (About 3/4" x 3/4" size.)
     *Any odd shaped end pieces can be snacked on!
     Just let the pieces of Prosciutto Wrapped Canary Melon sit on the cutting board till they are needed in the next recipe section.
     Prosciutto Canary Melon with Spring Lettuce and Scallion Mint Yogurt:
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Mound 1 1/2 cups of Spring Mix Lettuce on the center of a large plate.
     Spoon a generous portion of the Scallion Mint Yogurt Salad Dressing over the lettuce.
     *About 4 tablespoons.  The yogurt will help to hold the melon balls in place!
     Step 2:  Arrange the Canary Melon Balls on top of the yogurt dressed lettuce.  (Try to create a concentric circle pattern.)
     Drape 1 or 2 whole paper thin slices of Prosciutto on the center of the melon balls.
     Garnish the prosciutto with a few long thin bias sliced strips of green onion top.
     Step 3:  Evenly space the 12 bit size pieces of Prosciutto Wrapped Canary Melon in a circle pattern on the plate around the salad.  
     Delicious and modern looking!  This Mediterranean style salad platter is perfect for spring and summer!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Vanilla Bean Gastrique and Pan Roasted Vegetable Medley

     Rustic and Refined Flavors!
     Bacon Wrapped Shrimp is a popular item in casual restaurants.  Unfortunately, the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp at a casual restaurant is usually deep fried.  Deep frying Bacon Wrapped Shrimp is not exactly healthy, because the level of saturated fats are dramatically increased.  The bacon also loses its flavor, especially is the deep fryer oil is old and brown.
     Obviously deep frying Bacon Wrapped Shrimp is not the best cooking method.  In fine dining restaurants, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp are baked or broiled.  These cooking methods yield a better flavor and bacon that is not overcooked.  When Hickory Smoked Bacon is used to wrap the shrimp, the rustic smokey flavor becomes aromatic when this entrée is baked or broiled.  
     Vanilla Bean Gastrique is a nice accompanying sauce for Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.  Vanilla Bean Gastrique may look like a syrup, but the complex flavor is not sweet.  The combination of the refined gastrique digestif and rustic savory flavors taste good together.  
     Pan roasted vegetables are a nice simple accompaniment for an entrée that features rustic savory flavors.  A generous portion of pan roasted vegetables always pleases health minded guests.
     Vanilla Bean Gastrique:  
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (About 6 to 8 petite portions)
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Vanilla Bean Gastrique

     Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp:
     This recipe yields 1 petite portion.  (4 large shrimp)
     The bacon wrapped shrimp and the vegetable medley in the next recipe can be roasted in the oven at the same time.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 slices of hickory smoked bacon.
     Briefly blanch the bacon on both sides till the fat turns translucent and the bacon is not browned at all.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the 2 blanched bacon strips on a cutting board.
     Cut the blanched bacon strips in half.
     Step 3:  Peel and devein 4 large shrimp.  (16/20 per pound size)
     Leave the tails on the shrimp.
     Wrap 1 piece of the blanched smoked bacon around each shrimp and fasten the bacon in place with toothpicks.
     Step 4:  Place the smoked bacon wrapped shrimp on a broiler pan or pie tin that is lightly brushed with vegetable oil.
     Lightly season the shrimp with sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the pan aside.
     Step 5:  *Wait to cook the Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp till the Vegetable Medley in the next recipe is ready to go in the oven!  These two items can be roasted at the same time.
     Step 6:  After the Vegetable Medley is briefly sautéed and it is ready to go in the oven, place the pan of Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp in the 350ºF oven.
     Roast till the shrimp are fully cooked and golden highlights appear on the hickory smoked bacon.  Flip the shrimp once or twice, so they cook evenly.
     *Try not to overcook the shrimp or they will become dry!
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the oven and keep it warm on a stove top.
     *The Pan Roasted Vegetable Medley should finish at about the same time.  

     Pan Roasted Vegetable Medley:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.  
     Step 1:  Medium dice 4 ounces of peeled Russet Potato.  (3/8" cube shapes)
     Place the diced potato in a small sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the potato.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Place the pot over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil.
     Blanch till the diced potato, so it is about half cooked and still firm.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Cool the blanched diced potato under cold running water.
     Drain off the water and set the blanched diced potato aside.
     Step 2:  Place a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 slices of Bermuda Onion that are about 3/8" thick.
     Add the reserved blanched diced potato.
     Add 1/2 cup of thick sliced zucchini.
     Add 1 small Portobello Mushroom that is thick sliced.
     Add 5 thick strips of green bell pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Briefly sauté and toss the vegetables till they just art to cook and a few golden highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast the vegetables till they are tender and golden brown highlights appear.
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the vegetables warm on a stove top.

     Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Vanilla Bean Gastrique and Pan Roasted Vegetable Medley:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Mound Pan Roasted Vegetable Medley on the back of a plate.
     Place the Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp side by side the front half of the plate.
     Step 2:  Pour about 2 tablespoons of the Vanilla Bean Gastrique over the bacon wrapped shrimp and onto the plate.
     Garnish the plate with lemon slices and a dill sprig.
     Serve with a potato or rice of your choice on the side.
     Viola!  A café style Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp petite entrée with an interesting gastrique!  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

French Moroccan Salad

     A Nice Salad For Warm Weather!
     Today's recipe is a French interpretation of a Moroccan salad.  The French have occupied or defended North Africa many times during the last few centuries.  French cooking influences were adapted by many local North African cuisines and vice versa.   Many local food items and recipes from Mozambique and Morocco to Algiers and Egypt drew the interest of French chefs.  This is especially true for French chefs that sought exotic flavor combinations that could be incorporated into modern health cuisines.  The fusion of these two different cultures resulted in many interesting interpretive recipe creations.
     A French style composed salad made with European lettuce and food items that are found in Moroccan food market will naturally draw the interest of guests.  Peppery Arugula and crisp Belgian Endive create a nice balance of peppery lettuce and refined classic lettuce flavors.  Dates, Black Currants and Orange Suprêmes add a combination of deep dried fruit flavors and light refreshing citrus flavor.  The zesty tasting Orange Goat Milk Yogurt with Pomegranate Fruit ties the flavors of this healthy salad together in a nice way.        

     Black Currant Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 petite garnish portion.
     Black Currants are Champagne Grape Raisons.  Black Currants are used to make Crème de Cassis liquor and they also flavor some fortified wines.  Black Currants have a deep rich dried fruit flavor that is unlike any other raison.
     Place about 1 tablespoon of Black Currants in a cup.
     Add 1/4 cup of hot water.
     Soak the raisons for about 1 hour, so they soften.
     Drain the water off the Black Currants and set them aside.

     Orange Goat Milk Yogurt with Pomegranate:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (3 portions)
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of Goat Milk Yogurt (Greek Yogurt) in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the ingredients till blended.
     Step 2:  *Check the consistency.  The dressing should be a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  If the dressing is too thick, then add just a little more orange juice.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of fresh pomegranate fruit while gently stirring.
     *The pomegranate fruit has to be whole and no pieces can be crushed, or the pomegranate juice will tint the pale orange color salad dressing!
     Step 4:  Place the Orange Goat Milk Yogurt with Pomegranate in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.

     French Moroccan Salad: 
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     The large outer leaves of Belgian Endive are usually served whole.  The small inner leaves and broken leaves are usually coarsely chopped  and added to a salad green mixture. 
     An Orange Suprême is a wedge shaped whole section that has the pith, membrane and seed removed.  The rind is cut off of the whole orange first.  Then a sharp paring knife is used to cut the orange section free, by using the membrane that separates each wedge as a guide.  Making Citrus Fruit Suprêmes does take a little bit of practice, but it is an easy knife skill to learn. 
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of coarse chopped Belgian Endive in a mixing bowl.  (Bite size pieces.)
     Add 2/3 cup of baby arugula leaves.
     Add 1/3 cup of sliced celery.  (3/16" thick)
     Add 2 tablespoons of long thin bias sliced green onion.
     Step 2:  Add 8 Navel Orange Suprêmes.
     Add the reserved 1 tablespoon of soaked Black Currants.
     Gently toss the ingredients together.
     Set the salad green mixture aside.
     Step 3:  Place 4 large Belgian Endive Leaves against the rim of a shallow salad bowl, so they are evenly spaced and the tips point out from center.
     Mound of the salad green mixture on the center of the salad bowl.
     Spoon a generous portion of the Orange Goat Milk Yogurt with Pomegranate over the salad green mixture.  (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup)
     Place 3 Dates that are cut in half on the salad.

     This healthy salad has French Moroccan flavors that are perfect for a warm spring time day! 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Poached Filet of Sole with Beurre Noir Mushrooms and Almond Couscous

     Light Delicate Poached Sole with Savory Black Butter Mushrooms!
     Beurre Noir is black butter.  Beurre Noir is made by cooking whole unsalted butter over a moderate heat till the butter turns a dark brownish black color.  The Beurre Noir can be clarified bt pouring it through a paper filter or it can be served with the tiny bits browned milk fat intact for more flavor.  Beurre Noir is a classic choice for Poached Skate and it tasted nice with Baked Scallops.  Beurre Noir also tastes nice with a poached delicate flavor whitefish, like Sole.
     When I first published this recipe, nearly every kind of Sole was sustainable.  Now only a few Sole species in select fisheries around the globe are available in sustainable numbers.  It is best to check the sustainability status before purchasing Sole of any kind, so the dining experience will be guilt free.  To check the sustainability status, follow this link:  Monterey Bay Seafood Watch    

     Almond Couscous:
     This recipe yields 2 petite portions.
     Almond Couscous adds a nice contrast to the deep hazelnut flavor of Beurre Noire.
     Small Couscous Pasta mimics Millet Grain.  The texture of Small Couscous can vary, depending on how much water is added.  For a slightly sticky Small Couscous, the proportion of water should be a little bit more than the measurement of Couscous.   
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of almond slivers.
     Gently sauté till the almonds turn a light golden brown color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of Small Couscous.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a simmer while stirring occasionally.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Place a tight fitting lid on the pot.
     Simmer and steam till the Couscous absorbs the water and the texture is fluffy.
     *This only takes 3 to 5 minutes.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the lid.
     Stir the Couscous.
     Place the lid back on the pot and keep the Almond Couscous warm on a stove top.

     Wine Poached Mushroom Wedges:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Precooking the mushrooms in white wine will give them a lighter color and a nice flavor that goes well with Beurre Noir!
     Step 1:  Place a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/3 cup of petite Button Cave Mushroom wedges.
     Poach the mushroom wedges till they are tender and most of the wine evaporates.
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the Wine Poached Mushroom Wedges warm on a stove top.
     Poached Filet of Sole:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Select 1 Sole Filet that weights 6 to 8 ounces.
     Step 2:  Select a sauce pot that is a little bit wider than the sole filet.
     Add 1 1/2 cups Fumet (light white fish stock).
     Add enough water to the pot, so the liquid is 3" deep.
     Step 3:  Add 1/6 cup of sliced onion.
     Add 1 partially crushed whole garlic clove.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 6 black peppercorns.
     Add 2 slices of lemon.  (3/16" thick)
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 4:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the Court Bouillon to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the onions are tender and the flavors meld.  (About 5 to 10 minutes.)
     *Add water if the level of liquid drops below 3".
     Step 6:  Place the sole filet in the Court Bouillon.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the Court Bouillon to a gentle boil.
     Poach the filet of sole till it is almost fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the filet of sole warm in the Court Bouillon till the Beurre Noir Mushrooms are made.

     Poached Filet of Sole with Beurre Noir Mushrooms and Almond Couscous:
     This recipe yields 1 petite portion.
     The Beurre Noire can be served with the dark brown milk fat bits for extra flavor.  The Beurre Noir in the photo examples above was not strained.
     The Beurre Noir should be piping hot when it is poured over the fish, so the entrée must be plated quickly before the Black Butter cools down.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Unsalted Plugra Butter.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.
     Cook the butter till it turns a dark brownish black color.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 2:  Carefully use a slotted spatula to remove the sole filet from the Court Bouillon.
     Place the sole on the front half of a plate.
     Place the Wine Poached Mushrooms on the sole filet and cascade a few of the mushroom wedges onto the plate.
     Step 3:  Use a custard cup mold to place 1 portion of the Almond Couscous on the back half of the plate.
     Place 1 petite portion of a vegetable of your choice next to the Couscous.  (Buttered Dill Weed Carrot Dimes are nice!)
     Step 4:  Pour the hot Beurre Noir over the sole filet and mushrooms.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons is plenty.)

     This simple French café style entrée is fairly easy to make and the flavor will please guests! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Anelletti with Sun Dried Tomato, Italian Anchovy and Olio d'Oliva Parmigiana

     A Healthy Pasta With A Bold Flavor!
     Italian style olive oil sauce pastas are popular during warm summer weather.  Pasta with a bold tasting olive oil sauce also appeals to health oriented guests during the spring season.  A light pasta that has a bold umami flavor satisfies cravings that have built up after dining on heavy comfort food for most of the winter.  Strong umami flavors seem to trigger memories of dining on fresh seafood during the warm summer season.  
     Anchovies have been used as a seasoning in Mediterranean cuisine since the days of ancient Rome, when Garum was served with nearly every meal.  Anchovies were used as a seasoning in European cuisine till the early 1900's, then the popularity steadily decined.  In this modern age, people either like anchovies or they avoid them altogether.  Even with the resurgence of umami flavor food trends, anchovies are still a difficult item to get people interested in.
     There is a big difference between cheap salty anchovies and high quality anchovy filets that cost a few dollars more.  Cheap canned anchovies have a salty strong fishy flavor and the tiny bones are still usually attached.  Premium quality Italian anchovies are usually carefully packed in glass jars and they have a refined rich umami flavor that is quite mellow when compared to cheap anchovies.  Even people that do not normally like anchovies will tend to compliment the flavor of premium quality Italian anchovies.  Of course, the best place to find the best Mediterranean anchovies is at an Italian delicatessen or Italian food market!

     Anelletti with Sun Dried Tomato, Italian Anchovy and Olio d'Oliva Parmigiana:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     Aneletti Pasta and premium quality Italian anchovies can be found in an Italian delicatessen.  Sun Dried Tomato Halves can be found in grocery stores.
     Olive oil sauces require a small amount of liquid, especially if cheese is added.  The moisture will soften and melt the cheese.  Care must be taken when the cheese is added, because if the pan is left on the heat for a few seconds too long, the cheese will start to stick to the pan, even if the pan has a non-stick surface.
     Step 1:  Cut 6 sun dried tomato halves into 1/4" wide strips.
     Heat a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add the sun dried tomato strips.
     Gently simmer till the sun dried tomato strips soften.
     Step 2:  Drain the liquid off of the reconstituted sun dried tomato strips.
     Set the tender sun dried tomato strips aside.
     Step 3:  Start cooking 1 portion of Anelletti Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat.
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks.  Anelletti takes about 10 to 11 minutes to become al dente.  
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 6 chopped imported Italian Anchovy Filets.
     Add the reconstituted sun dried tomato strips.
     Briefly sauté for about 10 seconds, so the anchovies and tomatoes become aromatic.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed black peppercorn.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.  (Do not add too much salt, because the anchovies contain salt!)
     Add 2 pinches of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Wait till the pasta is ready!
     Step 7:  When the Anelletti Pasta is al dente, use a fine mesh strainer to drain the hot water off the pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Step 8:  Place the sauté pan of pasta and olive oil sauce over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Occasionally toss the ingredients together, till the pasta and olive oil sauce is piping hot.
     *If the water evaporates and the olive oil starts to fry the pasta, then add 2 tablespoons more water.  Only a small amount of water is needed to moisten the cheese in the next step.
     Step 9:  Add 3 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring the ingredients together.
     Stir till the cheese starts to cling to the pasta.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 10:  Use a serving spoon to mound the Anelletti with Sun Dried Tomato, Italian Anchovy and Olio d'Oliva Parmigiana in a shallow pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This bold tasting healthy pasta will awaken the senses!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tah-chin ba morgh

     Persian Baked Saffron Yogurt Basmati Rice Cake with Chicken!
     Tah-chin is a classic Iranian entrée and it is a unique method of cooking Basmati Rice.  The yogurt and spice flavored rice can be cooked plain and the Persian Farci name would be Tah-chin (or Tahchin).  Tah-chin is the basis for any else that is added to the recipe.  Vegetables, fish, beef, chicken or lamb are popular additions for Tah-chin.  When a featured ingredient is added, the extra item is mentioned in the recipe title after the word Tah-chin.  For example, today's Tah-chin recipe features chicken, so chicken must be mention in the entrée title.  The basic Iranian translation for Persian Style Baked Saffron Yogurt Rice Cake With Chicken is Tah-chin ba morgh.
     The food name Tah-chin ba morgh actually is a phonetic English translation of Farci language and as one can see, using a phonetic Farci language title sure does require fewer words than a straight English descriptive name for this recipe.  The name Tah-chin ba morgh is easy to pronounce and it does look good on a written menu.
     There are several languages in Iran that include variations of Farci and Arabic dialects, so the exact spelling of Tah-chin ba morgh does vary from one local dialect to the next, but this phonetic English spelling sounds similar in all local languages.  The reason why is because this recipe actually dates back to the days of ancient Persia.  The oldest Tah-chin recipes are well over 2,000 years old and the perfected recipe really has not changed much since then.  Tah-chin is ancient culinary perfection at its best!
     In order for the Tah-chin ba morgh to turn out as it should be, traditional Persian cooking techniques must be used with no shortcuts.  The Basmati Rice must be soaked in water for nearly 2 hours and the rice must be rinsed up to 7 times during this process.  This technique results in Basmati Rice grains that are long, light and fluffy after boiling.    
     The seasoning and spices for Tah-chin are simple.  Minced garlic, sliced onion, salt, black pepper, turmeric and saffron is all it takes to create a traditional flavor.  Saffron Water is preferred by many Iranian chefs for yogurt marinade, but regular Saffron Threads can be used too.  Saffron Water is usually made with Safflower Saffron, which has a milder flavor than Crocus sativa Saffron.  Crocus sativa Saffron is quite expensive, so low price Safflower Saffron is used more often in recipes, but more of the weaker Saffron will be needed.  A combination of Concentrated Safflower Saffron Water (or Safflower Saffron) and a small pinch of Crocus sativa Saffron yields a good flavor and yellow color.  The turmeric enhances the Saffron flavor and color too.
     The saffron yogurt marinade is divided into 2 separate portions.  One portion of the yogurt marinade is used for the cooked chicken and onions.  Egg yolks are added to the second portion of yogurt marinade to make a custard base, which will be mixed with the Basmati Rice.  The yogurt custard rice mixture lines the cast iron baking pan and the marinated chicken an onions are placed in the center, then the chicken is sealed in with the remaining yogurt rice custard mixture.
    The two hour baking time may seem very long, but the lengthy time in the oven is what gives the Tah-chin its golden brown crust.  The outside of the baked rice cake should be crusty and caramelized after baking.  The yogurt marinade mixture keeps the rice moist inside.
     In French culinary language, the words "Maillard Reaction" describe how an item that is cooked undisturbed till browned will easily release itself from a pan.  A certain amount of undisturbed browning is required for Tah-chin, so it does not stick to the pan.  If on a first attempt at making Tah-chin part of the rice mixture sticks to the pan when the Tah-chin is popped out of the baking pan, then all is not lost.  The broken Tah-chin can be salvaged by packing it back together on a serving plate.  

     Seasoning a Cast Iron Baking Mold or Cast Iron Skillet:
     Using a baking pan or deep skillet that has a modern non-stick surface is an option, but most of these kinds of pans are made with thin gauge metal.  Thin gauge metal does not distribute heat evenly, especially when an item is baked for a long time.  If the non-stick pan is made with thick metal, then it can be used to make tah-chin.    
     Tah-chin is usually baked in a seasoned cast iron baking pan or a seasoned deep cast iron skillet.  Deep cast iron skillets are farely easy to find in a variety of sizes.  An 8" wide cast iron skillet will yield a Tah-chin that is big enough for two portion.
     The cast iron skillet must be thoroughly seasoned, so the surface is like a modern non-stick surface pan.  Seasoning a cast iron skillet is as easy as placing about 1 cup of salt in the pan with about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.  The pan is placed over medium heat and the oil salt mixture is heated to the smoking point.  The hot oil and salt must be gently shaken in the cast iron pan, so the extra hot oil hardens on the entire cooking surface inside the pan.
     After the inside of the cast iron pan looks like it is a shiny smooth black surface, then the pan is thoroughly seasoned.  The cast iron pan can now be cooled, then the oil and salt can be discarded.  From this point on, the cast iron pan should only be wiped clean and sterilized with direct heat.  Soaking the pan with plain water is okay, if burnt food is stuck to the pan.  Water will not harm the seasoned surface.  Soap should not be used to clean a seasoned cast iron pan.  Using soap and water will remove the seasoned non-stick surface.        
     Tah-chin ba morgh:
     This recipe yields 1 large Tah-Chin that is enough for 3 or 4 portions!
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of Basmati Rice in a container.
     Cover the rice with cold water.  
     Drain the water off of the rice once every 15 to 20 minutes and cover the rice with more fresh cold water.  (The rinsing step should be done 7 times during the soaking period.)
     Soak the rice for a total of 2 hours.
     Step 2:  *While the Basmati Rice Soaks, the yogurt marinade and chicken can be prepared.
     Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of clarified unsalted butter (ghee).
     Add 1 1/3 cups of thin julienne sliced onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the onions are clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 8 ounces of thin sliced chicken breast.  (About 3/16" thick)
     Sauté and stir till the chicken is fully cooked.  Try not to brown the ingredients.
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Set the pan aside and let chicken and onions cool to room temperature.  Do not drain off the excess butter!
     Step 5:  Place 1 1/4 cups of plain Greek style goat milk yogurt in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 egg yolks.  (large eggs)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Safflower Saffron Water (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of Safflower Saffron).
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Place 1/4 of the yogurt sauce in a container.
     *Leave the rest of the yogurt sauce in the large mixing bowl and keep it chilled in a refrigerator.  The remaining yogurt sauce in the mixing bowl will be used for the rice later in the recipe.
     Add the chicken, garlic, onion and butter mixture to the small portion of yogurt sauce in the container.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Marinate the chicken in a refrigerator for at least one hour.
     Step 7:  *The Basmati Rice should be finished soaking by this time.
     Use a fine mesh strainer to drain the water off of the soaked Basmati Rice.
     Rinse the rice one last time under cold running water.
     Step 8:  Place 4 cups of water in a wide sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Add the soaked Basmati Rice.
     Boil the rice till it just starts to become tender.  (Try not to cook the rice till it is soft!)
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use a fine mesh strainer train the excess water off of the rice with a strainer.
     Allow the partially cooked Basmati Rice to cool to room temperature.
     Step 9:  Add 2/3 of the cooked Basmati Rice to the large portion of yogurt sauce in the mixing bowl.
     Stir till the rice is thoroughly coated.
     Set the rice mixture aside.
     Step 10:  Add 1/3 of the cooked Basmati Rice to the container of yogurt marinated onions and chicken.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the yogurt marinated chicken and rice mixture aside.
     Step 11:  Select a deep 8" to 9" wide seasoned cast iron skillet or cast iron baking mold.  (A heavy non-stick surface baking mold or shallow non-stick sauce pot can be used too.)
     Brush the pan with blended olive oil.
     Place 2/3 of the Basmati Rice and Yogurt Sauce Mixture in the baking mold.
     Press the rice mixture onto the bottom and sides of the baking mold, so that it lines the baking mold with an even layer of the yogurt rice.  There should be a shallow empty space in the center of the rice lined baking mold, where the chicken and rice mixture will fit.  
     Step 12:  Place the chicken yogurt rice mixture in the shallow center of the rice lined baking mold.
     Gently flatten the surface of the chicken mixture.
     Place the remaining yogurt rice mixture on top of the chicken mixture.
     Gently flatten the yogurt rice to seal the chicken mixture inside.
     Step 13:  Gently press the ingredients in the mold, so the ingredients are firmly packed with no air pockets.
     Cover the rice with a piece of parchment paper that is cut to the same size as the round baking mold.
     Cover the baking mold with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil.
     Step 14:  Place the baking mold on a sheet pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven
     Bake for 2 hours to 2 1/2 hours, till the surface of the rice is a golden brown to brown color.
     Step 15:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the lid or aluminum foil and parchment paper.
     Allow the baking mold to cool to about 100ºF.
     Step 16:  Run a paring knife around the edge of the baking mold to loosen the sides.
     Gently invert the baking mold onto a metal serving platter, so the open top of the baking mold faces down.
     Gently tap the baking mold and metal serving pan together as one against a countertop against to release the Tah-Chin onto the platter.
     Remove the baking mold.
     *The  surface of baked Tah-chin rice should be caramelized and firm enough to hold the Tah-Chin shape together.  If the rice happens to stick to the mold, then do the best that you can to shape it back together and make it look nice. 
     Step 17:  Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of pomegranate fruit on the platter around the Tah-chin ba morgh to create a jeweled effect.
     Serve with a ramekin of goat milk yogurt, mint sprigs and some virgin olive oil on the side.

     Tah-chin ba morgh takes some extra time and effort to make, but the great flavor of the finished entrée will surely please guests!